Stamps prompt teachers to boycott office-supply store

By   /   September 1, 2014  /   No Comments

By Mary C. Tillotson | Watchdog.org

The American Federation of Teachers, one of the country’s largest teachers unions, has called for a boycott of Staples, an office-supply store. Why? Because Staples now sells stamps.

Terrifying, I know. The U.S. Postal Service plans to expand its nefarious stamp-selling scheme to Staples’ 1,500 stores, and innocent American citizens wishing to send letters and postcards will now have the option of buying stamps from people who don’t belong to the American Postal Workers Union, if they choose not to buy stamps at the post office.

photo from Wikimedia

Stamps will be sold at an office-supply store — is that worth a boycott?

The USPS isn’t doing so well financially — between the Internet, the interstates, and FedEx, people just aren’t sending as much mail as they used to (and that’s not even counting the effects of being run by the federal government and lobbied by the union).

USPS debt looks like $100 billion. So when they take a step toward cost-cutting and efficiency, one would think they’d be applauded.

But no. This is a labor union, remember, and I don’t see any other reason why the American Federation of Teachers would care about Staples selling stamps. It’s not about good service, realistic ideas of money, or even stamps — it’s about protecting and increasing union jobs, which means more union dues paid, even if it’s to a different union, because it still means more money for the labor lobby. The AFT actually recommends, in its boycott resolution, that the USPS expand hours and add services. Maybe AFT doesn’t understand exactly how inefficiently the USPS is currently running.

The AFT claims the Staples stamp-selling will jeopardize 80,000 postal workers’ jobs, and I’m going to take the union’s word for it and assume it didn’t inflate (or invent) the number. These are unionized teachers, after all.

Let’s assume, for comparison, that one USPS worker equals one Staples worker, in terms of efficiency and output, so it takes 80,000 Staples employees to do the work of those 80,000 postal workers whose jobs are apparently in jeopardy.

The postal counters are supposed to spread to 1,500 Staples stores. That averages to just over 53 workers per store, employed solely to run the postal counter. Staples would have to employ additional workers to sell pens, computers and stationary.

Fifty-three workers to run a postal counter.

Even for a service run by labor unions and the federal bureaucracy, that’s appallingly inefficient. And while it’s wrong to fire employees arbitrarily, there’s a huge difference between “I don’t like the category of people you fall into, so, you’re fired” and “We don’t have enough money to keep everyone employed full-time here.” The first is morally wrong; the second isn’t, though it still stinks and sometimes it has to happen.

The problem is unions look at government the wrong way. Most of us think the primary purpose of the post office is to get our mail and packages from one place to another, and we pay taxes and buy stamps to keep that service available. The teachers union seems to think the primary purpose of the post office is to employ people.

Most of us (similarly) think the primary purpose of public schools is to educate kids, and it seems odd when we find out half of school employees aren’t teachers or that it can be difficult to fire teachers who do graphically sexual things with their students.

If the purpose of schools isn’t to educate kids but to employ adults, well, that makes more sense.

Contact Mary C. Tillotson at mtillotson@watchdog.org.

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Mary C. Tillotson is a national education reporter for Watchdog.org. She has reported for School Reform News, published by the Heartland Institute, and The St. Ignace News in northern Michigan. Contact Mary at mtillotson@watchdog.org.